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Giving Workers a Voice: What Working People Are Doing This Week

Fri, 05/31/2019 - 06:11
Giving Workers a Voice: What Working People Are Doing This Week AFL-CIO

Welcome to our regular feature, a look at what the various AFL-CIO unions and other working family organizations are doing across the country and beyond. The labor movement is big and active—here's a look at the broad range of activities we're engaged in this week.

A. Philip Randolph Institute:

Judge Orders New Union Vote at Kumho Tire Plant in Georgia

— APRI National (DC) (@APRI_National) May 16, 2019

Actors' Equity Association:

"It took me nine years and four states to get my Equity Card!" - Equity member Mary Martello shares how she received her Equity card! #HIGMEC

— Actors' Equity (@ActorsEquity) May 29, 2019


.@AFGENational supports civil and equal rights for workers from all backgrounds. That’s why we applaud the House for passing the Equality Act that would prohibit discrimination against all LGBTQ Americans, including federal employees. #1u

— AFGE (@AFGENational) May 29, 2019


“If we’re going to change how we do things, who knows how to better do it than front-line staff. To give those people a voice and the opportunity to do their jobs more efficiently, that improves patient care.”

— AFSCME (@AFSCME) May 28, 2019


"As teachers, we ... see the impact of discrimination on the faces of our kids. As a responsible adult & mandated reporter, it is my duty to stand up for ... my students." -MN Teacher of the Year Kelly Holstine on why she boycotted the White House

— AFT (@AFTunion) May 29, 2019

Air Line Pilots:

Airline #pilots want to make a very safe system even safer. #KeepFlyingSafe

— ALPA (@WeAreALPA) May 24, 2019

Alliance for Retired Americans:

Thanks for fighting for retirees @RepLawrence! We appreciate your votes to protect #Medicare and #SocialSecurity #RetireeHero #RetireeVR18

— Alliance Retirees (@ActiveRetirees) May 28, 2019

Amalgamated Transit Union:

CT Lawmakers Supporting Federal #Transit Worker Protection Bill #publictransit #safebus

— ATU, Transit Union (@ATUComm) May 15, 2019

American Federation of Musicians:

Outrageous! ALL musicians deserved to be paid fairly for ALL their work ALL the time. #1u #Organize! ✊🏿✊✊🏾

— AFM (@The_AFM) May 24, 2019

American Postal Workers Union:

"The survey is being pushed immediately before the APWU will begin interest arbitration...There is more than a good chance that the results of this survey will be utilized, as has been done previously, in interest arbitration against you."#APWUnited #USPS

— APWU National (@APWUnational) May 21, 2019

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance:

This #APAHM let's pledge to get #AAPI communities counted in the Census! We have everything you need to join our campaign here -->

— APALA (@APALAnational) May 13, 2019

Association of Flight Attendants-CWA:

Flight Attendants! Sign this petition to demand the DOT & FAA immediately implement our 10 hours rest & to encourage members of Congress to hold them accountable: It's been 8 months since we achieved 10 hours min. rest. This is unacceptable! #Fightfor10

— AFA-CWA (@afa_cwa) May 28, 2019


In 2016, @MDLZ outsourced 600 #Nabisco jobs to Mexico & paid workers as low as 97 cents/hr.

In 2017, CEO @Dirkvandeput took $42M pay package.

In 2018, shareholders rejected CEO pay & MDLZ then eliminated worker pensions.

That's not just low, that's #OreoLow. #1u

— BCTGM International (@BCTGM) May 15, 2019


Great presentations, @GlobalCCS & @ccsknowledge, at our #Boilermaker + Building Trades Town Hall yesterday. Great to see so many MPs, local officials & trade union members come out to learn about #CCUS & why it MUST be part of the climate change solution.

— Boilermakers Union (@boilermakernews) May 24, 2019


We need investment in #infrastructure like school #construction, not the walls. #BuildSchoolsNotWall #buildfortomorrow #1u

— Bricklayers Union (@IUBAC) May 28, 2019

California School Employees Association:

Charter schools are among the nation’s most segregated, an Associated Press analysis found in 2017. #education4everyone

— CSEA (@CSEA_Now) May 28, 2019

Coalition of Black Trade Unionists:

The @NAACP’s@Tiffanydloftin is dropping wisdom and wit at CBTU’s political townhall. #CBTUVotes #Be2020Ready

— CBTU (@CBTU72) May 23, 2019

Coalition of Labor Union Women:

Nationwide, there are more than 5,000 outdoor statues of people of all sorts. But estimates show fewer than 400 of them (or 8%) are of women.

— CLUW National (@CLUWNational) May 26, 2019

Communications Workers of America:

Over the last 12 years, New York has lost nearly 40,000 call-center jobs because major corporations decided to ship them away. The practice of subsidizing corporations that destroy good, middle-class jobs must end now.

— CWA (@CWAUnion) May 29, 2019

Department for Professional Employees:

By joining together in union, physicians and other professionals can negotiate for more manageable workloads and other tools to prevent burnout. #1u

— Department for Professional Employees (@DPEaflcio) May 29, 2019

Electrical Workers:

College isn't for everyone. The #IBEW is partnering with this Chicago-area school to let kids know about careers in the skilled trades.

— IBEW (@IBEW) May 24, 2019

Farm Labor Organizing Committee:

One distinctive of FLOC is our members drive our initiatives. They speak and we get their permission to speak on issues. We are made up of some of the hardest working poor people: migrant/seasonal farm workers/ & city dwellers in urban Toledo. Here are some NC members:

— Farm Labor Organizing Committee (@SupportFLOC) May 28, 2019

Federal Employees:

NFFE's statement on the Trump Administration's plan to close multiple Civilian Conservation Corps Centers.

— NFFE (@NFFE_Union) May 24, 2019

Fire Fighters:

Cancer leading cause of death among #firefighters

— IAFF (@IAFFNewsDesk) May 29, 2019

Heat and Frost Insulators:

Did you know you can get paid to go to school? There's no catch. The Insulators Union wants to recruit you for the upcoming Mechanical Insulators class. Put yourself in a competitive field and work with the best instructors! Visit

— Insulators Union (@InsulatorsUnion) May 29, 2019

International Labor Communications Association:

“I went straight from college to work as a union organizer in Mississippi,” said the late author and working people's storyteller #1u

— Labor Communications (@ILCAonline) May 28, 2019


An inspirational story of a small business owner who defied the odds to achieve success. Happy National Small Business Week! #SmallisMighty
View case study:

— Ironworkers. (@TheIronworkers) May 24, 2019

Jobs with Justice:

.@Google is taking full advantage of contract employees--who now outnumber those actually employed by Google. Being a contractor often means lower wages and fewer perks for working people.

— Jobs With Justice (@jwjnational) May 29, 2019


LIUNA is proud to provide the best training and apprenticeship programs in North America. Congrats Local 1059!

— LIUNA (@LIUNA) May 28, 2019


“If we keep avoiding the issues that are damaging our air, plants, and waters, then we will fail to keep our environment and communities in existence.” - Erica Capetillo #Trabajadoras #LatinoWorkerPriorities #ProtectNEPA

— LCLAA (@LCLAA) May 29, 2019


Meet personal support worker Jamillah Wyllie of @iamawcanada.#MemberMonday #MembersoftheIAM

— Machinists Union (@MachinistsUnion) May 27, 2019

Metal Trades:

Union workers at the Hanford nuclear reservation are entitled to back pay estimated at more than $140,000 for sick leave after Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., took up their complaint.

Read more here:

— Metal Trades Dept. (@metaltradesafl) May 28, 2019

Mine Workers:

The United Mine Workers would like to thank the @NAACP for supporting our legislation and standing with us while we fight to secure the pensions our miners deserve!

— United Mine Workers (@MineWorkers) May 29, 2019

National Air Traffic Controllers Association:

Team USA is forming for World Controllers’ Cup 2019. As 28 countries and over 200 controllers and aviation professionals play Nov. 3-9 in Riviera Maya, Mexico,
Team USA invites NATCA members to join them. Visit for more information.

— NATCA (@NATCA) May 28, 2019

National Association of Letter Carriers:

Nominate a letter carrier #hero! Letter Carriers are in constant touch with the public & so when they notice something unusual, they go out of their way to rescue people. Since 1974, the NALC has been recognizing letter carriers for these selfless deeds.

— Letter Carriers (@NALC_National) May 29, 2019

National Domestic Workers Alliance:

Time off is good for both workers AND employers. Vacation and paid time off from work is associated with improved health, lower stress, lower likelihood of depression, and more happiness at home and at work.

— Domestic Workers (@domesticworkers) May 28, 2019

National Nurses United:

BREAKING: Federal #WorkplaceViolence prevention legislation has just picked up several new cosponsors!

👉 Join NNU nurses in taking action --> Ask you Congress member to support H.R.1309: #WednesdayMotivation

— NationalNursesUnited (@NationalNurses) May 29, 2019

National Taxi Workers Alliance:

Report: Uber and Lyft’s rise tanked wheelchair access to taxis – The San Francisco Examiner

— NY Taxi Workers (@NYTWA) May 23, 2019

News Guild:

Solidarity with the workers of #GateHouse -- those who are facing #layoffs & those who are left to do more with less. We are fighting for a voice at work and for journalism that serves our communities. DM us to find out how to form a Guild unit. #SaveLocalNews #GateHouselayoffs

— NewsGuild (@news_guild) May 23, 2019

NFL Players Association:

.@josh_dobbs1 ✈️ #AthleteAnd Pilot

— NFLPA (@NFLPA) May 29, 2019

North America's Building Trades Unions:

Nevada Governor @SteveSisolak passed a bill restoring #PrevailingWage to public construction projects in the state!

“As of now, any gov’t project that costs more than $250,000 must pay a prevailing wage. Assembly Bill 136 lowers that to $100,000.” 👏💪

— The Building Trades (@NABTU) May 29, 2019

Office and Professional Employees:

“Finding a job in the US is pretty easy these days. Finding a good one isn’t.” #1u

— OPEIU (@opeiu) May 29, 2019

Painters and Allied Trades:

Check out the documentary "Bridge Brothers", which explores the lives of our own IUPAT bridge painters, working on two of Philly's most important bridges.

— GoIUPAT✊🏽 (@GoIUPAT) May 25, 2019

Plasterers and Cement Masons:

“Infrastructure is not a partisan issue. It is an American priority. Our nation’s leaders must find common cause — as we have — and once again make America a global leader on infrastructure.” Hear, hear @RichardTrumka & @ThomasJDonohue! #BuildForTomorrow

— OPCMIA International (@opcmiaintl) May 26, 2019

Professional Aviation Safety Specialists:

Over 1,000 gov jobs in rural communities lost if program cut that trains low-income, rural students to respond to natl emergencies. Wildfires rising in number & severity. Fed govt needs all hands to combat them. We support our brothers & sisters @NFFE_Union fighting this action.

— PASS (@PASSNational) May 29, 2019

Professional and Technical Engineers:

This is a prime example of why professionals are organizing more and more! Solidarity with these workers!

— IFPTE (@IFPTE) May 20, 2019

Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Workers:

Wow! Great news!

"This is a victory for farm workers, as we have finally had our day in court. All workers deserve to have a voice and be heard at their place of work, and farm workers deserve to be treated with respect and dignity."

— RWDSU (@RWDSU) May 24, 2019


The latest digital issue of #sagaftra magazine is ready for your weekend viewing. Click here to check out what we’ve been up to!

— SAG-AFTRA (@sagaftra) May 24, 2019

School Administrators:

Union actors are fighting for a fair wage and health care. It's time we join together and stand our ground. AFSA stands with our sisters and brothers at @SAG/AFTRA. #StrikeBBH

— AFSA Leadership (@AFSAUnion) March 22, 2019


#NationalMaritimeDay SIU President Mike Sacco greets apprentices ⁦

— Seafarers Union (@SeafarersUnion) May 22, 2019

Solidarity Center:

In corporations' quest to maximize profits, #migrantworkers forced to fish on boats for months, sleeping in dirty cargo holds & subject to beatings & often, denied wages. #forcedlabor #modernslavery @GCMigration @FES_Migration @GAATW_IS

— Solidarity Center (@SolidarityCntr) May 29, 2019


TCU/IAM Local 626 member Janice Scott is living the American dream. She used the benefits provided by the the union to obtain an Associates Degree in Business Management from Eastern Gateway Community College (EGCC).

— Transportation Communications Union/IAM (@TCUnionHQ) May 15, 2019

Theatrical Stage Employees:

All people are equal & all people deserve respect & fair treatment. On March 20th, 2019, International President @matthewloeb established the IATSE Pride Committee, which is tasked with coordinating activities that support LGBTQ+ workers in the entertainment industry. #IATSEPride

— IATSE (@IATSE) March 28, 2019

Transport Workers:

The TWU supports the Cabin Air Safety Act of 2019. We are fighting for a solution for this public health crisis! #ToxicFumes #ToxicFumeEvent #ToxicCabinAir #CabinAirSafety #OrganizeTheSkies

— TWU (@transportworker) May 29, 2019

Transportation Trades Department:

America’s transit workers are in desperate need of protections. It’s long past time for Congress to step up and pass the Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act. #DriveOutAssault

— Transp. Trades Dept. (@TTDAFLCIO) May 28, 2019


"The basic promise of America is that regular folks can work hard and get ahead if there are a fair set of rules. We need to find a way to restore this promise to working people." - @RepGolden

— UAW (@UAW) May 29, 2019


"In front of my 4 children, I will get to do something I never thought I would, I will walk across the stage and receive my Associates Degree in Criminal Justice." -UFCW Free College program graduate and @UFCW227 chief steward Amy Beasley
More info here:

— UFCW (@UFCW) May 29, 2019

Union Veterans Council:

Today we pay respect to our fallen brothers and sisters, not only the ones that lost their lives on the battlefield, but also the ones who return home to face an invisible enemy.
Let us recommit today to always remember the fallen and fight like hell for the living.#1u

— Union Veterans Council (@unionveterans) May 27, 2019


That's right - Americans know that people who come to this country for a better life, who work hard, raise families, and contribute to their communities epitomize the American dream - and deserve to stay.#DreamAndPromiseNow #TPSJustice #1u

— UNITE HERE (@unitehere) May 29, 2019

United Steelworkers:

How Volkswagen Has Gotten Away With Union-Busting:

— United Steelworkers (@steelworkers) May 26, 2019

Utility Workers:

Prevailing Wage laws ensure fair pay, higher safety standards, and quality union jobs. It’s time for WV to bring back #PrevailingWage #1u

— UWUA National (@The_UWUA) May 28, 2019

Working America:

The United States is the only advanced economy that does not federally mandate any paid vacation days or holidays.

About one in four workers in the U.S. don't get any paid vacation time or holidays at all.

— Working America (@WorkingAmerica) May 29, 2019

Writers Guild of America, East:

Parents shouldn't have to worry about choosing between “prioritizing time with the kids [and] focusing on the means of providing for them" — fair union contracts with strong family leave policies are one way to empower families to choose both. #1u

— Writers Guild of America, East (@WGAEast) May 23, 2019 Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/31/2019 - 07:11

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Profiles: Jung Sai Garment Work Strikers

Thu, 05/30/2019 - 08:38
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Profiles: Jung Sai Garment Work Strikers Cathy Cade

For Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various Asian Americans and Pacific Americans who have worked and continue to work at the intersection of civil and labor rights. Our next profile is about the Jung Sai Garment Work Strikers.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, San Francisco's Chinatown was a hotbed of garment manufacturing. Large companies handled the purchase of materials, the design of garments and the cutting of textiles. Contract shops, which used largely immigrant labor, handled the assembly work, sewing and cutting. Manufacturing companies pressured the contractors for low bids, and since entry into the industry was relatively cheap, an oversupply of contractors meant that the companies had the upper hand in any labor disputes. If a contractor paid its workers higher wages, the manufacturers would just go to other contractors who paid lower wages.

The system also allowed the manufacturers to avoid any blame for the sweatshop conditions in the contractors' factories. The International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU), the forerunner of UNITE HERE, attempted to organize the seamstresses in San Francisco in the 1960s, but had limited success. By 1973, the garmet industry was cited by the then-called California State Division of Industrial Welfare, with a one-week probe finding more than 600 violations in just 92 shops in the Bay Area. Many of the contractors were aware of the loopholes that allowed them to evade compliance with state labor law.

The Jung Sai factory was a large plant in Chinatown that in the early 1970s was owned by Esprit de Corp, a company that made clothing for young people. Work in the factory was plagued by harassment, intimidation, speed-ups, lack of breaks, low wages and disrespect for the workforce that consisted largely of Chinese immigrant women. The factory was owned by Douglas Tompkins, who was strongly anti-union. Among the worst violations were daily rationing of toilet paper to two roles for 135 employees and the firing of workers with experience and replacing them with cheaper workers with less skill. Workers who showed they had skills in English were fired and workers were rarely, if ever, allowed to talk with white, non-Chinese speaking management.

On July 4, 1974, four workers (Lily Lee, Lam Bick Chung, Nam Hing Leung and Frankie Ma) began distributing and collecting union authorization cards. While most workers were supportive, management hit back hard. Ma, notably the best of the pro-union leaders in terms of speaking English, was fired within the week. Workers were subjected to psychological pressure and retaliation. Tompkins held a meeting to inform the workers of his position on unionization and the workers' demands. The meeting was filled with threats and offers of higher pay for abandoning unionization. The next day, the workers voted to strike, and they walked out on July 15. Two days later, Tompkins locked the workers out and closed the factory. Dozens of strikers were arrested, and a driver working for Tompkins hit several protesters with a truck. Police harassed the protesters and refused to call an ambulance until forced to.

On July 24, the workers established a Jung Sai Strike Support Committee that began to meet on a regular basis. The Jung Sai workers expressed solidarity with others in the city fighting back against similar treatment. The strike got support from outside the industry, too, as the struggles of Chinese immigrants was an inextricable part of the story. Among the successful tactics the committee launched was a caravan of 30 cars that drove through the streets of Chinatown telling everyone of the conditions at the factory. News of other strikes around the country were coming fast and furious, with more than 1,000 strikes in 1974 alone. The Jung Sai strikers were part of a nationwide movement, and their action inspired others to stand up for themselves as well.

Tompkins responded with more use of police and the courts to undercut the strike. A sympathetic judge granted the company a restraining order against too many pickets. He also arranged to "sell" the plant to his manager, who would supposedly open up the plant again and rehire not only the strikers but other fired workers as well. Other promises of guaranteed work, improved benefits and higher salaries all turned out to be false. 

Esprit de Corp and Tompkins refused to do anything until they were forced to in December 1975. A judge ordered the plant to be reopened, workers hired back and back pay paid out, among other improvements. The average settlement for workers was in the $8,000–$12,000 range. The company used legal maneuvers to delay the payouts for more than four years after the ruling, but eventually it was forced to settle.

Not only did the strike eventually result in gains for the Jung Sai workers, it energized immigrant activism in the Bay Area and beyond, particularly among Chinese immigrants. While the seamstresses at Jung Sai engaged in marches, car caravans, plant shutdowns, community rallies, press conferences, mass media events and an immigrant workers' cultural festival, the rest of the country watched. And many learned from what the Jung Sai strikers did.

Source: "Jung Sai Garment Workers Strike," by Harvey Dong, which appears in Ten Years that Shook the City: San Francisco 1968–1978, edited by Chris Carlsson, 2011. 

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 05/30/2019 - 09:38

‘State of the Unions’ Podcast: A Union Organizer Goes to Washington

Wed, 05/29/2019 - 09:09
‘State of the Unions’ Podcast: A Union Organizer Goes to Washington

State of the Unions” podcast co-hosts Julie and Tim talk to Rep. Andy Levin (Mich.), a former AFL-CIO employee and career union organizer and activist. They discuss labor law reform, trade and the path to power for working people in Michigan and across the country. 

State of the Unions is a tool to help us bring you the issues and stories that matter to working people. It captures the stories of workers across the country and is co-hosted by two young and diverse members of the AFL-CIO team: Mobilization Director Julie Greene and Executive Speechwriter Tim Schlittner. A new episode drops every other Wednesday featuring interesting interviews with workers and our allies across the country, as well as compelling insights from the podcast’s hosts.

Listen to our previous episodes:

State of the Unions” is available on Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotifyStitcher and anywhere else you can find podcasts.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 05/29/2019 - 10:09

Tags: Podcast

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: Theatrical Stage Employees

Tue, 05/28/2019 - 08:51
Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: Theatrical Stage Employees

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE).

Name of Union: International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees

Mission: To support members' efforts to establish fair wages and working conditions throughout the United States and Canada, embrace the development of new entertainment mediums, expand the craft, innovate technology and grow the union to new geographic areas.

Current Leadership of Union: Matthew D. Loeb serves as international president. He was first elected in 2008 and has since been re-elected twice. He has been a member of the United Scenic Artists Local 829 since 1989, Local 52 since 1996 and of Local 491 since it was first established in 1994. Loeb was IATSE’s first director of Motion Picture and Television Production. He also serves on UNI Global Union's world executive board and is president of UNI's Media and Entertainment Industry sector. 

James B. Wood is the general secretary, and IATSE also has 13 international vice presidents: Michael J. Barnes, Thomas Davis, Damian Petti, Michael F. Miller Jr., Daniel Di Tolla, John Ford, John Lewis, Craig Carlson, Phil LoCicero, C. Faye Harper, Colleen A. Glynn, James J. Claffey Jr. and Joanne M. Sanders.

Current Number of Members: 140,000.

Members Work As: Virtually all the behind-the-scenes jobs in crafts ranging from motion picture animator to theater usher.

Industries Represented: All forms of live theater, motion picture and television production, trade shows and exhibitions, television broadcasting, concerts, and the equipment and construction shops that support all these areas of the entertainment industry. 

History: IATSE formed in 1893 when representatives of stagehands from 11 cities met in New York. They pledged to support each others' efforts to obtain better wages and working conditions. As technology advanced, the union moved to embrace new developments and an expansion of the craft. This dedication to adaptability in structure and goals helped grow IATSE to a membership of more than 140,000.

Current Campaigns/Community Efforts: Member safety is one of the pillars of IATSE and they have a hotline and smartphone app specifically dedicated to it. IATSE provides training in digital organizing and social media along with activism and offline organizing. The union provides scholarships, supports the efforts of women and young workers in the industry and highlights the community service of IATSE locals.

Learn More: WebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagram.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 05/28/2019 - 09:51

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Profiles: Monica Thammarath

Fri, 05/24/2019 - 11:36
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Profiles: Monica Thammarath AAJC

For Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various Asian Americans and Pacific Americans who have worked and continue to work at the intersection of civil and labor rights. Our next profile is Monica Thammarath.

Monica Thammarath was born and raised in San Diego, the daughter of refugees from Laos. She is a proud product of California's public education system and she earned two bachelor's degrees, one in political science and the other in social welfare. She is currently pursuing a master's in public administration at American University.

While in college, Thammarath began organizing to provide services that help students gain access to affordable and high-quality education. After graduation, she began working as the education policy advocate for the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center. She has since taken the position of senior liaison in the Office of Minority Community Organizing and Partnerships at the National Education Association, where she works on social justice issues like immigration, voting and collective bargaining rights. 

She serves on the national executive board of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), the national governing board of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum and the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, where she serves as co-chair of the education committee. In 2017, she was elected as the youngest person to ever hold the office of national president of APALA. Upon taking the office, she said: 

APALA has always held a special place in my heart. I am honored to have been elected as the new National President, and I am excited to strengthen our chapters, our community and labor partnerships, and elevate the voices of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) workers and workers of color everywhere.

In an interview with, she explained the importance of her work:

I realized that no matter how many girls I worked with, some of them would never have the opportunities to succeed unless the policies at the federal level reflected their needs. And those policies would never change unless people like me—people who personally understood the needs of those most impacted—were at the table to make their needs known.

And she spoke about the surprising road from college to her professional career:

If you asked me what I thought I’d be doing after college, moving from California to Washington, D.C., to work on federal education policy wouldn’t have been my answer. If you told me that four years later, I’d still be in D.C. working to connect the labor movement to civil rights and community organizations, I would have said you were crazy.

Thammarath's time as president of APALA has been eventful and the organization has been active. Since she took office, APALA has focused on building power for Asian and Pacific Americans, as well as defending workers' rights, fighting for justice for immigrants, temporary protected status and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals holders, countering rising hate and white supremacy, fighting for women and reproductive rights, defending diversity, joining the efforts to stop Brett Kavanaugh from being confirmed to the Supreme Court, defending public education and advocating for sustainable jobs in a changing climate, among other efforts.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/24/2019 - 12:36

Teamwork On and Off the Ice: Worker Wins

Fri, 05/24/2019 - 10:50
Teamwork On and Off the Ice: Worker Wins

Our latest roundup of worker wins begins with women's hockey players forming a union and includes numerous examples of working people organizing, bargaining and mobilizing for a better life.

Top Women's Hockey Players Form Union in Pursuit of Pro League: More than 200 of the top women's hockey players in the world have come together to form the Professional Women's Hockey Players Association. Among the goals the union is pursuing are a "single, viable women's professional league in North America," coordination of training needs and the development of sponsor support. Olympic gold medalist Coyne Schofield said: "We are fortunate to be ambassadors of this beautiful game, and it is our responsibility to make sure the next generation of players have more opportunities than we had. It's time to stand together and work to create a viable league that will allow us to enjoy the benefits of our hard work."

New England Macy's Workers Reach Tentative Agreement to Avoid Strike: Workers at several Macy's stores throughout New England have agreed to a tentative deal that will avoid a strike. Nearly 1,000 workers, represented by UFCW Local 1445, agreed to a three-year deal that includes better wages and health care options, among other gains. The union said: "Thanks to the strength of the Macy's members who with the support of the UFCW Local 1445 membership, allies, customers and other unions around the country won a tentative agreement security time and one half on Sundays, reduced cost of health insurance premiums and good wage increases and no give backs!"

Educators at D.C. Public Charter School Join AFT: Educators at Washington, D.C.'s Mundo Verde Bilingual Public Charter School have voted to join the AFT. The teachers are currently bargaining on their first contract and chose the union because they want to make sure that the school is a place where kids will thrive, teachers want to work and parents want to send their kids. Kindergarten teacher Andrea Molina said: "While we teach our kids about social justice and equity, we do not always experience it ourselves. Our teachers and staff are a strong, dedicated team; they work around the clock to make our school an amazing place to teach and learn and to set an example for other schools in the district. Our victory tonight will ensure we are treated with the dignity and respect that reflects the commitment we each have made to our school.”

New York Tenement Museum Workers Join UAW: Workers at the Tenement Museum in New York voted to join UAW Local 2110. The workers are joining together to make sure they maintain the things about the job that are working and to improve things that aren't. Nicole Daniels, a museum educator, explained: "A big part of it is we want to protect the things that are working and secure the things that are already keeping so many of us here....So a lot of it is about preserving the things that work already, but also standardizing systems....There’s a huge range of people across the departments, some of whom are part-time and others full-time, some of whom have benefits through the museum and others who don’t. Some of the ones who don’t have benefits through the museum get them from their parents or their partners. We want to serve the whole group, so we’re just going to have to see what’s needed."

New Lear Manufacturing Facility Workers in Flint Join UAW: Nearly 600 employees at the new Lear manufacturing plant in Flint, Michigan, voted to join the UAW. The new plant makes automotive seats. UAW President Gary Jones said: "We are thrilled to bring Lear’s exceptional workers into the UAW family and are excited about the prospect of new jobs available in Flint. The UAW represents more than 400,000 members and has welcomed over 10,000 new members since August. We welcome these workers and the opportunity to be a part of Flint’s rebirth. We look forward to getting down to business, bargaining great contracts and helping our new members make a positive impact on the community."

Stop & Shop Strike Leads to Victory for Working People: After an 11-day strike that followed more than three months of negotiations, more than 30,000 Stop & Shop Workers, represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers, reached a tentative agreement with the supermarket chain. The employees work at more than 240 stores across Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. In a statement, the union said: "The agreement preserves health care and retirement benefits, provides wage increases, and maintains time-and-a-half pay on Sunday for current members. Under this proposed contract, our members will be able to focus on continuing to help customers in our communities." Stop & Shop workers have since ratified the contract.

Rutgers Faculty Avoids Strike with Tentative Deal: Faculty members at Rutgers were able to secure a new tentative contract in the proverbial last minute before they went on strike. The 4,800 full-time faculty and graduate workers represented by Rutgers AAUP-AFT will need to vote on the contract. Rutgers AAUP-AFT President Deep Kumar described the terms of the deal: "We made history today. For the first time in the union’s nearly 50-year history, we won equal pay for equal work for female faculty, faculty of color, and for faculty in the Newark and Camden campuses. We won significant pay raises for our lowest paid members, our graduate employees who will see their pay increase from $25,969 to $30,162 over the course of the contract. In other historic firsts, the union won $20 million for diversity hiring and a guarantee of a workplace free of harassment and stalking, enforced with binding arbitration. Academic freedom now applies to social media.”

Quartz Editorial Staff Vote to Join NewsGuild: Editorial staff at news outlet Quartz, which covers the economy, tech, geopolitics, work and culture, have voted to be represented by The NewsGuild of New York/CWA Local 31003. The union has asked Japanese media company Uzabase, which owns Quartz, to voluntarily recognize the union. The editorial staffers are looking to swiftly begin the bargaining process and are looking to strengthen existing benefits and improve pay equity, diversity and job security. "We love Quartz, and we love working here. For us, organizing is a way to double down on our commitment to the publication and the continued pursuit of its excellence. We are excited about the future of Quartz, and we want to make sure we are a part of it," said Annalisa Merelli, Geopolitics reporter.

Researchers in University of California System Launch New Union: Researchers in the University of California system are in the final stages of forming the first union exclusively for researchers who are not faculty or graduate students. The new union, Academic Researchers United (ARU), is a unit within UAW Local 5810. ARU members are seeking better pay and benefits, job security, transparency in hiring and promotion, and other protections. "At this moment, academic researchers have no job security and are facing super uncertain career paths," said Anke Schennink, president of Local 5810.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/24/2019 - 11:50

Tags: Organizing

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Profiles: Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes

Thu, 05/23/2019 - 09:18
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Profiles: Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes Wikimedia Commons

For Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various Asian Americans and Pacific Americans who have worked and continue to work at the intersection of civil and labor rights. Our next profiles are Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes.

Silme Domingo was born in Killeen, Texas, in 1952. His father was a Filipino immigrant who had served in the U.S. Army during World War II. The family moved to Seattle in 1960, where Silme attended high school and college.

Meanwhile, Gene Viernes was born in Yakima, Washington, in 1951, also the son of immigrants from the Philippines. His father worked as a fruit picker and in local canneries. Gene grew up working in the fields with his father before going to school. At 14, he lied about his age and joined International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 37 and worked in the cannery. He spent many of his summers working as an "Alaskero," the nickname for Alaskan salmon cannery workers. At the time, Local 37 largely consisted of Alaskeros who lived in the Seattle area and traveled to Alaska for the summer work every year.

Domingo also began working in the Alaska canneries, and before long, Domingo and Viernes were close friends. They formed the Alaska Cannery Workers' Association. In Seattle, Domingo, in particular, was active in protesting the activities of the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, and he helped organize the first protests of the Marcos regime in Seattle, along with the Union of Democratic Filipinos (KDP). Domingo would help establish the KDP chapter in Seattle.

By 1981, Domingo was secretary-treasurer of Local 37, and Viernes was a dispatcher. Along with a slate of reformers, they had taken over all of the offices except for president. The reform slate were opponents of Local 37 President Tony Baruso, who was a Marcos supporter with ties to local Seattle gangs. At the time, the Alaskan cannery industry was rife with racial discrimination, with white workers getting the best jobs as well as company-provided food and housing, while Filipino workers worked long, dangerous hours with meager food and squalid living conditions. The reformers not only ran for election as officers in the local, they engaged in class action lawsuits against the canneries.

On June 1, 1981, Domingo and Viernes were working out of the ILWU offices in Seattle when two gunmen walked into the offices and shot and killed Domingo and Viernes. Terri Mast, Domingo's partner, was left with two young daughters to raise alone. Mast fought back publicly, eventually leading to the murder convictions of Baruso and local gang members. Marcos also was found complicit in the conspiracy and a successful civil suit was brought against the dictator in the case. While we will never know what heights Domingo and Viernes could've achieved in their pursuit of expanded rights for working people and Filipinos, Mast would go on to be elected president of Local 37, cleaning up the corruption in the local. In 1987, Local 37 merged with the Inlandboatmen's Union (IBU). Mast was later elected national secretary-treasurer of IBU.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 05/23/2019 - 10:18

We Need Action on Infrastructure, Not More Talk

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 15:02
We Need Action on Infrastructure, Not More Talk

More than half a century ago, Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower and a Democratic-majority Congress empowered millions of Americans to build an interstate highway system that became the envy of the world. Back then, our nation understood that investment in infrastructure was crucial to creating a better future.

The interstate highway system was such a success that, 60 years later, both parties still fight over who gets credit for it.

Today, our leaders often talk about big ideas but rarely summon the political courage to accomplish them. As a result, our roads, bridges, airports, railways and utilities are outdated and in need of urgent repairs. In 2014, our clogged roads cost $160 billion in lost productivity and wasted fuel. Our packed airports cost nearly $36 billion a year from air travel complications, and our crumbling infrastructure has cost American lives. It should not take another tragedy to change that.

As the heads of the nation’s leading business and labor organizations, we don’t always see eye to eye on things, but on this, we are in lockstep: Rebuilding and modernizing our nation’s crumbling infrastructure will benefit every business, every worker and every family in the United States. It will make every community safer, more resilient, healthy and secure. It will create good jobs, boost productivity, sharpen our nation’s competitive edge and ensure our current and future economic success.

It is frustrating that, despite widespread calls to act, the only response from Washington has been lip service. Talking alone does not create a single job or repair a single road. We need action.

Infrastructure is not a partisan issue. It is an American priority. Our nation’s leaders must find common cause—as we have—and once again make America a global leader on infrastructure.

For every dollar invested in public infrastructure, our country gets $3 in economic return. A $2 trillion investment, as President Donald Trump and congressional leaders have agreed upon in principle, would produce reliable transit systems, sound roads and bridges and safe drinking water.

We are aware that paying for this will be a challenge. It is important to consider all funding sources, including the gas tax, which hasn’t been raised at the federal level since 1993. An increase of 25 cents per gallon over five years would generate $394 billion and save Americans an average of $1,600 a year due to decreased car-repair costs and lower fuel costs, thanks to less time spent in traffic. In addition, raising the gas tax would put millions of men and women to work rebuilding our nation’s deteriorating roads and bridges.

But a gas tax alone cannot cover the $2 trillion bill. It is going to take a creative mix of federal, state, local and private resources to make the investment we need. Every long-term funding option, from payment structures to federally backed loans, should be explored. However, we agree that a 21st-century infrastructure is impossible without a major public investment.

We are also aware that neither party is perhaps as keen to take this step as it sounds on the stump. But according to a poll released in April, the public is tired of waiting. Seventy-nine percent of the voters polled believe Washington must act and invest in federal infrastructure, and in 2018, 79% of 346 state and local ballot measures aimed at infrastructure investment were approved.

The infrastructure investments we make today will determine the kind of country we will be decades from now. Our leaders in Washington have a historic opportunity to rebuild and modernize a nation desperately in need of repair. Labor and business are ready to unleash an unmatched network of leaders and members to support the passage of long-overdue legislation. But we can’t do it alone. The time for delay is over. Let’s build our future, and let’s start today.

Thomas J. Donohue is president and chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce. Richard L. Trumka is president of the AFL-CIO. This post originally appeared in The Washington Post.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 05/22/2019 - 16:02

Phoenix Rising: Betty Guardado Ousts Incumbent in City Council Race

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 11:48
Phoenix Rising: Betty Guardado Ousts Incumbent in City Council Race AFL-CIO

Labor union member and activist Betty Guardado was elected to the Phoenix City Council this week, and with strong union support, she ousted the incumbent. Guardado easily beat her opponent as she won more than 62% of the vote.

Guardado, who started off as a housekeeper at a hotel in 1996, became an organizer with UNITE HERE Local 11, for which she now serves as vice president. And now she has risen to become a City Council member for the fifth largest city in the United States.

"I've worked hard for every single thing I’ve had in my life. I feel great, humbled, honored to have the voters decide I was the person to represent them at City Hall," Guardado said after her victory.  

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler (IBEW) was in Phoenix for Guardado’s win and tweeted: "Honored to be at her victory party to congratulate her and the many dedicated @UNITEHERE11 volunteers who made it happen. Working people are lucky to have her powerful voice in office!"

"Betty Guardado is one of us and we are proud of the work she has done for working families, her union and her community," Local 11 posted on social media on election night. "We cannot wait to see what she will do for the people of District 5. Sí, se puede!"

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 05/22/2019 - 12:48

Power Connection: Connecticut AFL-CIO Empowers Fight for $15

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 10:23
Power Connection: Connecticut AFL-CIO Empowers Fight for $15 Connecticut AFL-CIO

In a monumental leap of economic justice last week, the Connecticut Legislature passed a law that increases the state minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2023. The increase brings Connecticut into parity with its neighboring states of New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey, which have passed similar increases. The victory comes as a result of unprecedented coordination among labor unions and allied advocates in the state that have been fighting for an increase for years.

"After years of grassroots organizing, Connecticut will finally catch up to our neighbors," said Connecticut AFL-CIO President Sal Luciano. "We applaud the legislature for doing the right thing and raising wages for over 330,000 workers in our state."

The victory was aided by a number of union members who have been elected to the state's General Assembly. Of critical importance to the bill’s passage were the co-chairs of the assembly's Labor and Public Employees Committee, state Sen. Julie Kushner, former director of UAW Region 9A, and state Rep. Robyn Porter, who was once a single mother who worked three jobs to make ends meet.  

The state legislature also has a paid family and medical leave bill that is tentatively scheduled for a vote the week of May 20. "All these combined are going to make a huge difference in people’s lives," Kushner said.

The significance of the measure is not lost on those who will immediately benefit from the increase. "When fast-food workers walked off the job nearly seven years ago demanding $15 and a union, nobody thought we had a chance," said Joseph Franklin, a leader in the Fight for $15 coalition and a McDonald’s worker in Hartford. "Our movement is gaining momentum."

The Connecticut AFL-CIO has been diligently working to elect union members and allies to office, and this victory shows that the path to power flows directly through the labor movement.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 05/21/2019 - 11:23

Path to Power Is Clear in the Ocean State

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 10:24
Path to Power Is Clear in the Ocean State

The Rhode Island AFL-CIO has been busy in 2019, leading the fight on a number of important legislative initiatives. There are numerous union members who have been elected to the state legislature and that has provided an opportunity to pass legislation that will make a huge difference for our members and for working people across the Ocean State.

Earlier this month, the state legislature passed, and Gov. Gina Raimondo signed, a continuing-contract bill that would indefinitely lock in wages and benefits in expired public-employee contracts. The law now prevents cities and towns from unilaterally slashing pay and making employees pay more for their health insurance during deadlocked negotiations.

The state federation also was involved in passing a bill that established fairness in the overtime laws to firefighters and relieves them of burdensome shift scheduling practices. A top priority for the Rhode Island State Association of Firefighters/IAFF, the new law sets the overtime threshold at 42 hours per week, bringing firefighters’ overtime protections more in line with other industry workers.

The Rhode Island AFL-CIO is also advocating for the passage of an increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour for care providers for developmentally disabled individuals in the state. The legislation has broad support in the legislature and will end the discriminatory minimum wage disparity for these essential care workers.

All of these advancements were made possible through an unrelenting advocacy effort that coordinated many union members elected to the Rhode Island state legislature, including state Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (LIUNA). Ruggerio was instrumental in guiding these initiatives through a complicated political effort and ultimately passed the bills with overwhelming support.

The Rhode Island AFL-CIO is proving that the path to power runs through the labor movement.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 05/20/2019 - 11:24

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: Farm Labor Organizing Committee

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 09:51
Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: Farm Labor Organizing Committee AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC).

Name of Union: Farm Labor Organizing Committee

Mission: To challenge the deplorable conditions of the broader workforce that remains voiceless, powerless and invisible to mainstream America by giving farm workers a voice in the decisions that affect them and bringing all parties to the table to address industry-wide problems.

Current Leadership of Union: Baldemar Velasquez is the founder and president of FLOC. Justin Flores serves as vice president and Christiana Wagner serves as secretary-treasurer.

Members Work As: Farm workers.

Industries Represented: Agriculture throughout the United States.

History: Baldemar Velasquez and a small group of migrant farm workers in northwest Ohio came together in the mid-1960s and FLOC was formally established in 1967. In the ensuing years, FLOC expanded its membership beyond Ohio, organizing thousands of new members. 

After successfully leading a strike in Ohio in 1978, the largest agricultural work stoppage ever in the Midwest, FLOC held its first constitutional convention as a labor union. They began a boycott of Campbell's Soup that year, and in 1983, Velasquez led a 600-mile march as part of the boycott. After eight years of the Campbell's fight, FLOC successfully negotiated the first tri-party agricultural contract between the workers, the company and the growers associations. The success of the Campbell's boycott led to improvements in working conditions, wages and benefits and the end of exploitative sharecropping arrangements at Heinz and other food-processing corporations in the Midwest. 

In the 1990s, FLOC began organizing farm workers in the South. Thousands of farm workers were organized during a five-year boycott of Mt. Olive Pickles that led to a 2003 contract with the farm workers, Mt. Olive and the North Carolina Growers Association. These contracts changed the way the agricultural system works and brought H-2A guest workers under union contracts for the first time. Today, FLOC is working to organize tens of thousands of tobacco farm workers in North Carolina and throughout the South.

Current Campaigns: The Reynolds campaign calls upon tobacco company R.J. Reynolds to create a written agreement guaranteeing the collective bargaining rights of farm workers and calls for a boycott of Reynold's e-cigarette brand VUSE. FLOC focuses on organizing efforts in the Midwest, the South and Mexico.

Community Efforts: We Are FLOC compiles the stories of how FLOC has affected the lives of farm workers. The FLOC Homies Union provides a democratic, unified collective voice for the Latino community in Toledo, Ohio. The Black/Brown Unity Coalition works to empower black and brown communities. 

Learn More: WebsiteFacebookTwitterYouTube.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 05/20/2019 - 10:51

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Profiles: Arlene Inouye

Fri, 05/17/2019 - 12:24
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Profiles: Arlene Inouye UTLA

For Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various Asian Americans and Pacific Americans who have worked and continue to work at the intersection of civil and labor rights. Our next profile is Arlene Inouye.

Arlene Inouye was born and raised in Los Angeles and has spent her life working for the students and teachers of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). Her grandparents immigrated from Japan, and they and her mother were placed in internment camps during World War II. Inouye went on to earn a bachelor's and a master's degree from Long Beach State University and she has been a Spanish bilingual speech and language specialist for 18 years. She has also worked as an adult education teacher, master teacher, mentor, multicultural and human relations trainer, school reform trainer, and financial manager.

After she began working in education, Inouye quickly got in her union. She ascended to leadership roles, including treasurer for the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), as well as various positions with the AFT, the National Education Association and their affiliates. She also serves on the executive board of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance. Most recently, Inouye served as the lead negotiator in the contract talks between UTLA and the LAUSD during the January 2019 teachers strike.

Inouye has a history of activism. In the 1990s, she was working on building peace-based organizations and helping refugees when she launched the Coalition Against Militarism in Our Schools. Unions were among the supporters that made up the coalition and she eventually focused her activism more on collective bargaining rights.

As UTLA's lead negotiator during the weeklong strike, Inouye helped plan strategic efforts that prepared teachers for the work stoppage, built community coalitions and achieved significant gains. She spoke about the value of community:

But what really moved the dial was the fact that we had thirty-two thousand members picketing at every single school, together with fifteen thousand parents and community members. And we had fifty thousand members and supporters out here rallying almost every day. That’s real power. So they knew that if they didn’t meet our demands, we’d prolong the strike—and they didn’t want that. We had tremendous leverage and that’s why we were able to get everything we thought was critical—and more.

And about what it took to win:

We’ve really been building over the past years. I learned that there’s nothing that can stop you when you’re very organized, when you have the structures, the internal systems, the rank-and-file participation, the staff, and when you’re working together for a common agenda. I’m still amazed about what we as a union have been able to accomplish.

We were able to motivate our members and to walk them through the steps of overcoming their real fears and doubts; we were able to help them take a big risk. We stood strong for the issues of all our members, not just our teachers. When you’re inclusive like that you really experience unity. We were all able to come together.

In the end, the teachers won significant victories on behalf of themselves and their students and: a full-time nurse in every school, additional counselors and librarians, smaller class sizes, pay increases without health care concessions, increased oversight for charter schools, and political momentum for a moratorium on charter schools, among other gains. Not only did Inouye help secure victory for the teachers of Los Angeles, she set a standard for other trade unionists to follow.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/17/2019 - 13:24

It's Time to Fix Our Roads and Infrastructure with Funding from Congress

Fri, 05/17/2019 - 10:18
It's Time to Fix Our Roads and Infrastructure with Funding from Congress Infrastructure Week

Bent rims. Broken springs. Bridges and roads unfit for drivers. Search #FTDR (short for “Fix the Damn Roads”) on social media, and you’ll find countless stories from Michiganders who are paying the price of crumbling, potholed roads and highways.

Michigan’s roads cost the average driver more than $640 every year, and not a cent of that goes toward actually fixing the problem. The state of Michigan’s infrastructure is downright dangerous. School buses full of kids cross bridges held up with temporary supports. Chunks of concrete from overpasses fly into windshields, causing injuries. We’re running out of time to act.

Unfortunately, nightmare bridges and roads are just one example of how underinvestment in infrastructure hurts working families—and not just in Michigan. Many of America’s transit systems, airports, railways and ports—once a point of deep pride for our country—are sorely outdated and can barely keep up with demand.

As a result, Americans from all walks of life are suffering. Office workers endure grueling, hourslong commutes to and from work. Air travelers experience increasingly long lines at our nation’s airports. Small business owners face delays getting their goods to market. And those unable to afford vehicles find it difficult to access reliable transit options.

These experiences add up to a national crisis. Failing to act on infrastructure makes the United States less competitive than 15 of our major trading partners and could cost us 2.5 million jobs by 2025.

This Infrastructure Week, we’re calling on Congress to invest in our nation’s roads, bridges, schools and more. For every dollar spent on public infrastructure, we get $3.70 back in economic growth. That’s a phenomenal return on investment, putting an additional $1,400 per year back into the pockets of everyday Americans.

A robust federal investment would ensure safe roads, sturdy bridges, clean drinking water, quality public schools, dependable transit systems and ports that can keep up with global demand. The package we need wouldn’t just address our current shortfall, but would help propel America forward as a global leader in the technologies and infrastructure of the future, such as high-speed rail and smart utilities.

Improving our infrastructure also will help our families and communities by creating good-paying, family-sustaining jobs, lowering unemployment, raising wages and reducing inequality. This virtuous growth cycle can usher in a new era of broadly shared prosperity and, in turn, provide equality and justice within our communities. Without it, countless working families will be left to suffer the consequences—something Michigan knows all too well.

Last month marked five years since the Flint water crisis began. Michigan’s recent proposal for a $120 million investment to replace lead service lines and clean up contaminated water is a critical step forward. What’s more, it would immediately put hundreds of women and men to work in good-paying union jobs across the state, replacing and building pipelines so this never happens again.

Many of these jobs in infrastructure begin with a union apprenticeship. Workers receive education and on-the-job training—often at little or no cost—and afterward, they receive a career filled with dignity, opportunity, advancement and no debt.

These workers are willing and able to tackle the enormity of our nation’s crumbling infrastructure crisis. But, like Michiganders and all Americans, they are waiting for the federal government to act.

While Washington debates its next move, American families are footing the bill—paying more than $3,000 every year for government inaction—and wasting the equivalent of four full days a year sitting in unnecessary traffic.

Michigan and other states are stepping up to fill in the gaps where they can, but we need federal leadership to get the job done. With 79% of Americans agreeing that it’s extremely important to invest in infrastructure, Congress and the administration are out of excuses.

It’s time to fix the damn roads.

This post originally appeared in the Lansing State Journal.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/17/2019 - 11:18

The PRO Act: Pathway to Power for Workers

Fri, 05/17/2019 - 09:57
The PRO Act: Pathway to Power for Workers

Abigail Disney, granddaughter of the co-founder of the Walt Disney Co., called out the family business’ current CEO last month for making what’s supposed to be the happiest place on earth pretty darn miserable for its workers.

All of the company profits shouldn’t be going into executives’ pockets, she said in a Washington Post column. The workers whose labor makes those profits should not live in abject poverty.

This is what labor leaders have said for two centuries. But Disney executives and bank executives and oil company executives don’t play well with others. They won’t give workers more unless workers force them to. And the only way to do that is with collective bargaining—that is, the power of concerted action.

The United States recognized this in the 1930s and gave Americans the right to organize labor unions under the National Labor Relations Act (NRLA). The increase in unionization encouraged by the law significantly diminished income inequality over the next 40 years. American workers prospered as a result of having a voice in the workplace.

But right-wing politicians, at the beck and call of CEOs, have chiseled large chunks out of labor organizing rights, diminishing unions and breeding vast economic disparities.

The decline in union density accounts for one-third of the rise in income inequality among men and one-fifth among women, Economic Policy Institute researchers found.

The solution, of course, is the same as it was in 1935. In order to restore balance to an astronomically uneven economy, Congress must restore workers’ power to organize. Democrats took a first step last week toward accomplishing that when they introduced the Protect the Right to Organize (PRO) Act in the U.S. House and Senate. It would give back to workers the power they need to demand their fair share of the profits created by the sweat of their brows.

It’s great that some billionaires and millionaires like Abigail Disney want CEOs to give their workers raises. But workers need the PRO Act, the power of collective bargaining, to make them do it. Workers know this intrinsically and want union representation. A survey last year showed that nearly half of nonunion workers would join a union if given the opportunity to do so. For that to happen, the law must change.

The PRO Act addresses several major problems with the current gutted NLRA that render too many workers powerless. Its intent is to give working people a fair shot when they try to form a union and bargain for a better life for themselves and their families.

The defects of the current law can be clearly seen in the case of Kumho Tire. In 2017, the union I lead, the United Steelworkers (USW), filed a petition to represent workers at the major international tire producer’s plant in Macon, Georgia. The company ran a vicious $500,000 campaign against the union, including daily, mandatory captive audience meetings, designed to coerce workers into voting against union representation.

Kumho also fired the lead supporter of the organizing drive, Mario Smith, to intimidate his fellow workers. There are currently no penalties for employers who take such retaliatory actions. The best a wrongly fired worker can hope for is receiving back wages, but only once the case is settled, which can sometimes be years after the termination.

Meanwhile, corporations routinely forbid outside union organizers from entering the workplace, and workers are restricted from speaking about the organizing campaign while on the clock. Such limitations violate the intent of the NLRA, which was to encourage collective bargaining, not hinder it.

The USW filed more than 30 Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charges against Kumho Tire, including for the unjust termination of Mario Smith, but this process takes time, sometimes years. And time doesn’t pay unjustly fired workers’ bills.

Under the PRO Act, rather than making fired workers endure long periods of uncertainty while waiting for their ULP cases to be heard by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), unions would be able to immediately seek an injunction to reinstate employees like Smith while their cases are pending. The bill would also authorize the NLRB to assess monetary penalties for each violation in which a company wrongfully terminates a worker or causes serious economic harm.

And those mandatory captive audience meetings would be banned, giving workers the power and freedom to decide for themselves if union representation is right for them.

The PRO Act would also forbid freeriding, which is when workers who choose not to join the union but benefit from union representation don’t pay fair share fees to cover the cost of bargaining and administering the collective bargaining agreement. This would beat back one of the major assaults on labor rights—so-called “right to work” laws—by allowing unions to function fully for their members.

The bill proposes a system to ensure that workers who succeed in a union organizing drive actually obtain a first collective bargaining agreement, establishing terms for pay, benefits and working conditions. As it stands now, nearly half of newly formed unions are denied a first labor agreement as the result of companies’ refusal to negotiate in good faith.

Volkswagen, for example, has spent years and millions thwarting their employees’ attempts to unionize at the VW plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Since 2015, when a group of 160 skilled-trades workers in the plant voted to join the UAW, the company has refused to negotiate and appealed to the NLRB and the courts to get the election overturned. With courts and the now Republican-dominated NLRB upending union-friendly Obama rulings, that looks likely.

Not to be defeated, however, the UAW has collected signatures from 65 percent of the plant’s 1,709 hourly workers, including the 160 skilled-trades workers. The cards say the workers want an election for union representation, and the UAW asked the NLRB to set a date. Instead, the GOP NLRB postponed the election indefinitely, giving VW all the time it wants to continue waging its aggressive anti-union campaign on their workers.

Newspaper columns and calls for compassion by Patriotic Millionaires like Abigail Disney can only do so much to convince CEOs to treat their workers fairly. Americans need more than nice rich people speaking up for them—they need the power to speak and stand up for themselves. An economy is only as healthy as its workers are empowered.

The PRO Act is the pathway to that power.

This post originally appeared at Common Dreams.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/17/2019 - 10:57

Invest in Infrastructure: In the States Roundup

Fri, 05/17/2019 - 09:48
Invest in Infrastructure: In the States Roundup AFL-CIO

It's time once again to take a look at the ways working people are making progress in the states. Click on any of the links to follow the state federations on Twitter.

Alaska AFL-CIO:

Time to tell your legislator to support an Alaska with a strong economy and vital services. #akleg #akgov

— Alaska AFL-CIO (@AKAFLCIO) May 15, 2019

Arizona AFL-CIO:

'It's because we were union members': Boeing fires workers who organized

— Arizona AFL-CIO (@ArizonaAFLCIO) May 4, 2019

Arkansas AFL-CIO:

Video Games and Drinks, or Union Dues? Delta’s Pitch Draws Fire

— Arkansas AFL-CIO (@ArkansasAFLCIO) May 15, 2019

California Labor Federation:

Trump's illegal move to revoke #HSR funding from CA is an attempt to "kill thousands of good, family-supporting jobs our state desperately needs. We stand with @GavinNewsom to vigorously defend these funds & the #HSR project that’s so vital to California’s future." -- @ArtPulaski

— California Labor Federation (@CaliforniaLabor) May 16, 2019

Colorado AFL-CIO:

We see you Senate Democrats-thank you for your leadership and support for Colorado workers and communities by passing HB 1314 on second reading! #coleg

— Colorado AFL-CIO (@AFLCIOCO) April 30, 2019

Connecticut AFL-CIO:

Connecticut will finally catch up to our neighbors – MA, NY & NJ – who have already passed a $15 minimum wage. We applaud the legislature for doing the right thing and raising wages for over 330,000 workers in CT. Full @15andaUnion statement: #FightFor15

— Connecticut AFL-CIO (@ConnAFLCIO) May 17, 2019

Florida AFL-CIO:

The smoke is clearing from this year's attack on Working Families. Watch our final update video to see what happened in the last week of Session. Sign up for email alerts at

— Florida AFL-CIO (@FLAFLCIO) May 16, 2019

Georgia AFL-CIO:

Union member and State Senator @SenNanOrrock pumping up the crowd at the @AFLCIO Southern District meetings! #1u

— AFL-CIO Georgia (@AFLCIOGeorgia) April 4, 2019

Idaho AFL-CIO:

Write Your Representative: Co-Sponsor H.R. 2474, Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2019#1u #Solidarity #UnionStrong #Organize #UnionsForAll #RightToOrganize

— Idaho State AFL-CIO (@IdahoAFLCIO) May 8, 2019

Indiana State AFL-CIO:

44% of major roadways are in poor or mediocre condition, costing the average driver $533 each year in repairs. #BuildForTomorrow

— Indiana AFL-CIO (@INAFLCIO) May 15, 2019

Iowa Federation of Labor:


— Iowa AFL-CIO (@IowaAFLCIO) May 17, 2019

Kansas State AFL-CIO:

We are very happy to announce that Delía García has been confirmed as the Secretary of KDOL!

We look forward to Sec. García's continuing leadership. The future is bright for KDOL!

Pictured: Sec. García and staff watching the official announcement.#KSDOL #ksleg @GovLauraKelly

— Kansas Dept of Labor (@KansasDOL) May 3, 2019

Kentucky State AFL-CIO:

“Hoover emphasized a concern that several legislators of both parties have about the bill — that it will likely diminish the retirement...

— Kentucky AFL-CIO (@aflcioky) May 7, 2019

Maine AFL-CIO:


— Maine AFL-CIO (@MEAFLCIO) May 15, 2019

Massachusetts AFL-CIO:

They heard us loud and clear today! We will continue to fight for the schools our students and communities deserve. #FundOurFuture #1u #mapoli

— Massachusetts AFL-CIO (@massaflcio) May 16, 2019

Metro Washington (D.C.) Council AFL-CIO:

Daryl Davis Quintet closes out #dclaborfest concert with Whole Lott’s Shakin’ ⁦@busboysandpoets⁩ Takoma ⁦

— MetroDCLaborCouncil (@DCLabor) May 17, 2019

Michigan AFL-CIO:

A well-deserved lifetime achievement award for Sander Levin. Always standing with us. #MIAFLCIO19.

— Michigan AFL-CIO (@MIAFLCIO) May 16, 2019

Minnesota AFL-CIO:

Heat grows in the union debate at Delta Air Lines as senators scold CEO. Thank you @SenTinaSmith for standing with working people and our freedom to join together! #1u @MachinistsUnion

— Minnesota AFL-CIO (@MNAFLCIO) May 17, 2019

Missouri AFL-CIO:

Some in the Missouri Legislature are trying to kill one of the largest energy projects in the state's history! Stand with the workers, rural schools and communities who will benefit from the Grain Belt Express project and tell the #MoLeg to #SaveGBX.

— Missouri AFL-CIO (@MOAFLCIO) May 15, 2019

Montana AFL-CIO:

Bill signing ceremony for SB 264. Bill provides prevailing wages for remediation work at Colstrip when units close and allows the local union workforce to compete for those jobs. Thank you Sen. Jason Small for all your work! #mtpol

— Montana AFL-CIO (@MTaflcio) May 9, 2019

Nebraska AFL-CIO:

Shout out to all who helped with the 27th Annual Letter Carriers Food Drive in Nebraska! We had an amazing response. #stampouthunger #unionproud

— NE State AFL-CIO (@NEAFLCIO) May 12, 2019

Nevada State AFL-CIO:

Solidarity with state workers as they fight for a voice on the job ✊🏽✊🏾✊🏼@Local4041 @Culinary226 #1u

— Nevada State AFL-CIO (@NVAFLCIO) May 14, 2019

New Hampshire AFL-CIO:

By acclamation @PresBrackett has been elected to a second term as NH AFL-CIO President! #nhpolitics

— NewHampshire AFL-CIO (@NHAFLCIO) April 13, 2019

New Mexico Federation of Labor:

Putting money into our communities is what makes it grow, not taking it away. #BuildForTomorrow

— NMFL (@NMFLaflcio) May 17, 2019

New York State AFL-CIO:

NESE approval is essential to grow our economy. The project will not only provide good-paying construction jobs, it will create countless economic opportunities through new residential, industrial, and commercial development. When NESE is resubmitted @NYSDEC must approve quickly.


North Carolina State AFL-CIO:

Yes! Adjuncts win latest round in union bid at Elon University: @SEIUForwardNC #1u #organizethesouth

— NC State AFL-CIO (@NCStateAFLCIO) May 16, 2019


This needs more attention. Thx to the @OHDems @RepMarcyKaptur @RepMarciaFudge @RepTimRyan @RepBeatty for supporting Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act), Not one @GOP member signed up protect our @AFLCIO #Union, which protects our #MiddleClass.

— Ohio AFL-CIO (@ohioaflcio) May 16, 2019

Oklahoma State AFL-CIO:

— Oklahoma AFL-CIO (@OK_AFL_CIO) May 14, 2019

Oregon AFL-CIO:

— Oregon AFL-CIO (@OregonAFLCIO) May 17, 2019

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO:

If you learn anything from @hardball tonight, it is that WORKERS’ issues at the heart of Pennsylvania’s communities! @HardballChris @ueunion #union #1u

— PA AFL-CIO (@PaAFL_CIO) May 16, 2019

Rhode Island AFL-CIO:

Sign up today to receive our weekly ENews. Send us a request by E-Mail to #1U #UnionNews #UnionStrong #UnionYes #Unions #AFLCIO

— Rhode Island AFL-CIO (@riaflcio) March 15, 2019

Texas AFL-CIO:

SB 9 wants to suppress the elderly and disabled voters that often times can't drive to the polls," said Texas AFL-CIO's #NOSB9 @MontseTXAFLCIO

— Texas AFL-CIO (@TexasAFLCIO) May 16, 2019

Virginia AFL-CIO:

Millions of Americans Could Finally Get Paid Family Leave—If Lawmakers Can Agree On Who Pays

— Virginia AFL-CIO (@Virginia_AFLCIO) May 17, 2019

Washington State Labor Council:

WSLC President Larry Brown: "A healthy environment and good jobs go hand in hand. We must have both, or in the end, we’ll have neither." #WAleadsonclimate

— WA State AFL-CIO (@WAAFLCIO) May 8, 2019

Wisconsin State AFL-CIO:

For Equality, This Labor Leader Gave a Maximum Effort,

— WI AFL-CIO (@wisaflcio) May 16, 2019 Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/17/2019 - 10:48

Profiling Asian Pacific American Labor Leaders: The Working People Weekly List

Fri, 05/17/2019 - 09:19
Profiling Asian Pacific American Labor Leaders: The Working People Weekly List AFL-CIO

Every week, we bring you a roundup of the top news and commentary about issues and events important to working families. Here’s the latest edition of the Working People Weekly List.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Profiles: Sumi Sevilla Haru: "For Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various Asian Americans and Pacific Americans who have worked and continue to work at the intersection of civil and labor rights. Our next profile is Sumi Sevilla Haru."

Murdered Trade Unionists: The Truth Behind Colombia’s Trade Agreement: "Any mention of Latin America has become a synonym of mass migration, autocratic governments and unstable economies. Yet, Colombia continues to shine as the exception. This week marks the seventh anniversary since the United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA) entered into force. It can be argued that during these years this South American nation has become a haven of economic and social stability. Or not."

‘State of the Unions’ Podcast: Confronting the Health Care Crisis: "In the latest episode of 'State of the Unions,' Tim talks to National Nurses United Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, RN, about the growing movement of registered nurses organizing for better jobs, a more just society and health care as a fundamental human right."

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: Communications Workers of America: "Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the Communications Workers of America (CWA)."

Save Our Pensions: What Working People Are Doing This Week: "Welcome to our regular feature, a look at what the various AFL-CIO unions and other working family organizations are doing across the country and beyond. The labor movement is big and active—here's a look at the broad range of activities we're engaged in this week."

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Profiles: Chinese Railroad Laborers: "For Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various Asian Americans and Pacific Americans who have worked and continue to work at the intersection of civil and labor rights. Our first profile this month features the Chinese laborers who helped build the first transcontinental railroad in North America."

Colorado Legislature Votes to Protect Local Minimum Wage Laws: "Last week, the Colorado Legislature passed a bill to repeal the state's 1999 law that prohibits local governments from setting a minimum wage higher than the state level. The Colorado law was part of a wave of measures nationwide pushed by corporate interests trying to keep wages low by preempting democracy. Since then, working people in Colorado have been working to overturn the limitations placed on the minimum wage and will finally do so when Gov. Jared Polis signs the bill, which he is expected to do in the coming days."

North Woods North Star: "After years of dealing with an intransigent governor, the Maine AFL-CIO is advancing a pro-labor agenda in the state after victories at the ballot box last year. With their endorsed candidate for governor elected to the Maine House with strong union support, the door is now open for opportunities to pass meaningful legislation for the working people of Maine."

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: California School Employees Association: "Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the California School Employees Association (CSEA)."

Paducah Unions Observe Workers Memorial Day by Helping Feed the Hungry: "Union families gather on Workers Memorial Day to remember men and women who lost their lives on the job the previous year. 'This year, we wanted to do something different,' said Kyle Henderson, president of the Paducah-based Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council."

Economy Gains 263,000 Jobs in April; Unemployment Declines to 3.6%: "The U.S. economy gained 263,000 jobs in April, and the unemployment rate declined slightly to 3.6%, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Continued lower levels of job growth provide good reason for the Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee to express caution in considering any interest rate hikes."

What (Guest-Worker) Women Want: "We’re farm workers, crab pickers and cruise ship workers. We’re chocolate packers, engineers, veterinarians, nurses and teachers from all around the world. We are united by our motivation, yearn for knowledge and commitment to creating change in our communities. We stand with guest-worker women from around the world to ensure that the policies that affect us reflect our experiences."

‘State of the Unions’ Podcast: Not Good Enough: "In the latest episode of 'State of the Unions,' podcast, co-hosts Julie and Tim talk to Celeste Drake, the AFL-CIO's recently departed trade policy specialist, about flaws in the proposed new NAFTA and outline the labor movement's high standards for current and future trade agreements."

Labor's Resurgence: In the States Roundup: "It's time once again to take a look at the ways working people are making progress in the states."

Marriott Should Tell the Truth About Sexual Harassment: "Marriott International, the biggest hotel chain in the world, is hiding the truth about the dangers its workers face. UNITE HERE members are demanding that the company comes clean. "

12 Things You Need to Know About Death on the Job: "The AFL-CIO today released its 28th annual Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect report. Each April, we examine the state of worker safety in America. This year's report shows that 5,147 working people were killed on the job in 2017. Additionally, an estimated 95,000 died from occupational diseases."

What Happens When Call Center Jobs Are Shipped Abroad and Workers Try to Organize?: "One of the world's largest 'contact center' companies, U.S.-based giant Alorica, has been expanding in the Philippines, where more than 1.3 million women and men work in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector. These workers and their allies came together through BIEN, the BPO Industry Employees Network, to defend workers' interests in this booming sector. Alorica, a global player in this industry, offers 'customer experience' services to the U.S. market for clients like Comcast, AT&T, Citibank, Barclays and Caesars."

USITC Report Backs Up the Need to Fix New NAFTA to Add Real Enforcement: "On April 18, the United States International Trade Commission released its analysis of the likely economic impacts of the new NAFTA (also known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement or USMCA). The report supports the AFL-CIO’s position on the new NAFTA: Congress should not vote on it until it is fixed."

The U.S. Postal Service Is Owned by the People—Let's Keep It That Way: "As the tax deadline looms and millions scurry to get their forms sent on time, Tax Day is a good time to dispel the myth that the U.S. Postal Service is funded by tax dollars."

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: Railroad Signalmen: "Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the Railroad Signalmen (BRS)."

Powerful Victory: "A tentative agreement between the 31,000 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) in New England and management at Stop & Shop supermarkets has been reached, effectively ending the historic strike that captured the country’s attention."

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/17/2019 - 10:19

Murdered Trade Unionists: The Truth Behind Colombia’s Trade Agreement

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 11:23
Murdered Trade Unionists: The Truth Behind Colombia’s Trade Agreement Rhett Doumitt, Solidarity Center

Any mention of Latin America has become a synonym of mass migration, autocratic governments and unstable economies. Yet, Colombia continues to shine as the exception. This week marks the seventh anniversary since the United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA) entered into force. It can be argued that during these years this South American nation has become a haven of economic and social stability. Or not.

One only has to look behind all the fanfare and a “parallel reality” appears. Violence in Colombia is still harrowing. From the oil to the sugar to the flower sector, workers and trade unionists report a deterioration of their rights at the workplace, continued labor intermediation that weakens the power of workers, and an increase in the culture of violence and impunity. From January 2016 through April 2019, 681 social leaders and human rights defenders have been murdered; and between 2016 and 2018, 70 trade unionists have been killed. In fact, from the year the TPA went into force until today, 172 trade unionists have been murdered.

When the United States and Colombia began negotiating their trade agreement, we already saw the negative effects of the original NAFTA—from mass migration and a spike in violence in Mexico to widening inequality in the United States. After pressure from labor and human rights organizations, in April 2011, the U.S. and Colombian governments agreed to an “Action Plan Related to Labor Rights” (Labor Action Plan) that outlined specific steps to be taken by the Colombian government within a concrete timeline.

Colombia made commitments, both under the trade agreement and in other global fora, to improve worker rights, end attacks and murders of trade unionists, and bring perpetrators of violence to justice. The country also signed a peace accord with the FARC that committed to ending the conflict and addressing many of the core factors that continue to lead to high levels of inequality and violence.

But despite these ongoing commitments by various Colombian administrations and President Iván Duque Márquez, the situation for Colombian workers and trade unionists continues to deteriorate.  

As a side agreement, the Labor Action Plan had no effective enforcement mechanism, and in May 2016, the AFL-CIO and Colombian unions submitted a complaint under the FTA documenting ongoing egregious violations of the agreement’s labor commitments. Currently, the agreement remains inadequately implemented with new policies like the recently passed National Development Plan that actively undermines its implementation.  

Today is the third anniversary of the submission of the labor complaint, and the AFL-CIO and Colombian unions continue to demand real action toward compliance with all international commitments that include full respect for and implementation of International Labor Organization’s  fundamental rights that are critical to not only securing rights, but the ongoing transition to an inclusive and lasting peace.

In the context of the ongoing peace process, on May 2 the Colombian Congress approved the National Development Plan, a four-year plan that includes changes to labor rights. The plan contradicts many of Colombia’s commitments under free trade agreements with both the United States and Canada and with the European Union, as well as commitments made at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and the ILO. It undermines efforts to redress broader problems such as the exclusion and poverty and violence faced by Afro-Colombians, indigenous people and rural workers. Seven years after the trade agreement went into force, neither the Colombian nor U.S. government are in a position to speak of progress.

The ongoing failure to address egregious worker rights violations and violence against trade unionists in Colombia underscores the lack of effective enforcement mechanism in our current trade model. We must inform the current debates around the need to develop a new trade model that creates an effective enforcement mechanism, mandatory monitoring, reporting and assurances that actions will be promptly taken when workers' rights violations occur. Guaranteed funding is needed to ensure monitoring, enforcement and technical assistance happen.

The United States must address the vain attempts by the Colombian government to uphold its commitments outlined in the TPA and ensure that any future trade agreements, including the renegotiated NAFTA, incorporate an effective mechanism that ensures that working families’ lives can benefit from trade.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 05/16/2019 - 12:23

Tags: Colombia

‘State of the Unions’ Podcast: Confronting the Health Care Crisis

Wed, 05/15/2019 - 09:08
‘State of the Unions’ Podcast: Confronting the Health Care Crisis AFL-CIO

In the latest episode of "State of the Unions," Tim talks to National Nurses United Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, RN, about the growing movement of registered nurses organizing for better jobs, a more just society and health care as a fundamental human right. 

"State of the Unions" is a tool to help us bring you the issues and stories that matter to working people. It captures the stories of workers across the country and is co-hosted by two young and diverse members of the AFL-CIO team: Mobilization Director Julie Greene and Executive Speechwriter Tim Schlittner. A new episode drops every other Wednesday featuring interesting interviews with workers and our allies across the country, as well as compelling insights from the podcast’s hosts.

Listen to our previous episodes:

State of the Unions” is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and anywhere else you can find podcasts.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 05/15/2019 - 10:08

Tags: Podcast

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Profiles: Sumi Sevilla Haru

Mon, 05/13/2019 - 12:11
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Profiles: Sumi Sevilla Haru Sumi Sevilla Haru

For Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various Asian Americans and Pacific Americans who have worked and continue to work at the intersection of civil and labor rights. Our next profile is Sumi Sevilla Haru.

Sumi Haru was born in Orange, New Jersey, to Filipino immigrant parents, and she grew up in Colorado. When she was young, she dreamed of being an actress after meeting the cast and crew of the film "Soldier in the Rain" on a California vacation. When she arrived in Hollywood in the late 1960s, she started getting small roles in movies like "Krakatoa: East of Java" and "M*A*S*H" and TV shows like "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Marcus Welby, M.D." In 1968, she became a member of the Screen Actors Guild.

It wasn't until 1970 that she caught the activism bug. That year, Haru joined a picket line in Los Angeles, protesting the musical "Lovely Ladies, Kind Gentlemen," which cast white actors in Japanese roles. After that protest, she founded or got involved in numerous organizations that promoted the rights of actors. In 1981, as president of the Association of Asian/Pacific American Artists, she protested the movie "Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen," which cast Peter Ustinov as the fictional Chinese detective. About the film, she said: "It isn't only dated and racist, it's insulting to our sense of logic and fair play. White actors, with their eyes taped, can portray us on the screen, but we as Asian-Pacifics are not permitted to portray them."

Between Haru's activism and her refusal to audition for roles that she believed stereotyped Asians, acting roles became a smaller part of her life and she became more active in SAG. She joined the union's board in the mid-1970s, and she co-founded SAG's Ethnic Employment Opportunities Committee and negotiated for inclusion and more realistic representation of people of color in Hollywood.

In addition to serving on the SAG board for nearly 40 years, Haru also served in several leadership positions, including recording secretary and first vice president. In 1995, when SAG President Barry Gordon resigned to run for Congress, Haru became interim president of the union, the first woman of color to hold the position. That year, she also began a six-year term as an AFL-CIO national vice president, the first time an Asian American served on the federation's Executive Council.

In 2009, Haru was honored with SAG's Ralph Morgan Award for distinguished service. In 2012, she published her memoir, "Iron Lotus."

At the time of her passing, then-SAG-AFTRA President Ken Howard said:

It is with great sadness that our SAG-AFTRA family says goodbye to Sumi Haru. Sumi notably represented SAG-AFTRA and its predecessor unions for decades on our local and national boards, and as Screen Actors Guild recording secretary and interim president. Sumi served our members through her lifelong dedication to actors, the labor movement and civil rights and equal employment. She did that with conviction, passion and grace. Our deepest condolences go out to her loved ones. We will miss her.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 05/13/2019 - 13:11


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